Former Williamson County District Attorney Ken Anderson did not disclose evidence to the defense in a case 27 years ago, and will spend 10 days in a county jail.
As a consequence of that misconduct, though, Michael Morton spent 25 years in prison for the murder of his wife Christine, a crime he did not commit, for which he was exonerated by DNA evidence last year.
Christine Morton’s actual killer, Mark Alan Norwood, was convicted of her murder earlier this year, and is now indicted for killing another woman in Austin two and a half years after Christine’s death.
Morton’s defenders from the Innocence Project hailed the legal precedent set Friday by Anderson’s plea deal allowing for a contempt charge for failing to disclose exculpatory evidence. “Every state and federal judge can issue such an order tomorrow and deter those few prosecutors who would otherwise deliberately violate their ethical and legal duties,” said Barry Scheck, Co-Director of the Innocence Project, which is affiliated with Cardozo School of Law. After suffering 25 years in prison as an innocent man, Michael Morton has courageously fought to hold Ken Anderson accountable and to prevent anyone from being victimized by similar misconduct. Today was an important first step.”
Anderson refused to disclose that the lead police investigator had learned that Morton’s 3-year-old son witnessed the crime and told his grandmother that Morton wasn’t the perpetrator, that Anderson had learned that a neighbor had reported seeing someone staking out the house, and that someone had tried to use the victim’s credit card in San Antonio after the murder.
Anderson had been facing up to 10 years in prison on a felony and misdemeanor charges of tampering with evidence, which were dropped according to the Austin American Statesman. Anderson will be disbarred for at least five years as well, pending final review by the Texas Supreme Court.